What to Look for in a Ghostwriter

By Jerry Payne

December 17, 2017


Hey, I’m not naive. There are more than a few of us ghostwriters out here. For people looking to have a book ghostwritten, the choices are becoming more and more plentiful every day. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean all the choices are good ones. Frankly, some are lousy. How do you make sure you’re not making a mistake when you hire a ghostwriter? Here are a few things to look for (and some to stay away from).

Probably the biggest mistake I see these days is in the hiring of a nameless, faceless ghostwriting “service” or company, instead of hiring an individual. Most of the times, these companies work like employment services. You contract with them and they assign your project to a “staff” writer who, more than likely, is just an independent contractor somewhere. You may not even get a chance to talk to him or her until you’ve signed the contract with the company! Make sure you’re working with a real person with whom you get a chance to personally discuss your project. You’re going to be working closely with this person for at least several months and you have to be comfortable with him or her. In fact, your ghostwriter should be willing to meet personally with you at your location once the contract is signed.

There’s nothing like experience. Look, if you honestly don’t have the money, then, sure, go to freelancer.com and hire a kid fresh out of college to write your life story for peanuts. You probably won’t be happy with the result, but at least you’ll have your book. If you can afford it, however, then there’s no excuse for skimping. Find a ghostwriter who has experience and who’s actually made a career from writing. It might not be cheap, but if you find someone who’s made writing his life’s work, then you’re very simply going to have a better book, even a publishable one.

Along those lines, only work with a ghostwriter who is willing to keep making revisions on your book until you’re satisfied with it, without charging any additional fees. It’s your book; you have to be happy with the final result.

Get a firm fee up front, not an estimate, and make sure it’s in the ghostwriting contract that you pay for the book in stages. Never pay fifty percent up front. You shouldn’t pay fifty percent for your book until fifty percent of the book has been written.

Make sure your agreement has a confidentiality clause. Nobody but you and the ghostwriter should know about his or her involvement in your book. This seems like a no-brainer (it’s ghostwriting, after all!), but I’ve seen contracts where this important point wasn’t made clear.

Make sure your ghostwriting agreement has an out. Never sign a ghostwriting contract that doesn’t allow you to cancel if for any reason you’re not happy.

Finally, talk to some references.

There are lots of choices these days, which is a good thing. Just make sure the choice you make is a good one. Your idea for a book deserves nothing less than the best writer you can afford.


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